NEWBURGH, Maine — If you show up to the Make-A-Wish Foundation walkathon at Bangor’s Cascade Park between 10 a.m. and noon Saturday, you will notice a NASCAR Sprint Cup car on display.
Newburgh’s Greg Veinote owns the No. 20 Home Depot Joe Gibbs Racing car driven by Tony Stewart from 2000 to 2002.
Veinote is making it available to youngsters and adults with disabilities or illness. The car has a second seat so Veinote or one of his friends can give individuals a free ride around a local racetrack.
The Make-A-Wish Foundation is a nonprofit organization that grants wishes to children ages 2½ to 18 with life-threatening illnesses.
Stewart won 12 races and had 42 top-five finishes in 106 races during that three-year span and he won the points championship in 2002 after finishing second in 2001 and sixth in 2000.
When Veinote owned Caribou’s Spud Speedway, one of the “bright spots” of his job was working with local charities in the area.
“It gave you a warm and fuzzy feeling because you were doing something good,” said Veinote.
But when Veinote became very ill in 2008 and bedridden in 2009, he wound up having to “reluctantly” sell the track that year, two years after he had bought it.
“I was really mad at the world about it,” said Veinote, who eventually was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. “I had worked seven days a week for 18 years so I could buy a racetrack. And we had some of the bigger car counts in the state.”
But Veinote said he eventually realized that “I still had it a lot better than some people.”
Once he got on the right medication, enabling him to get out of bed and function, he decided to get back into charity work.
“When I was at Spud Speedway, I would see these handicapped children and adults and I wanted to find a way to get them involved in racing somehow without making them feel like a sideshow,” said Veinote.
He was in the process of putting a second seat in one of longtime friend and neighbor Ricky Craven’s Roush Craftsman Truck Series trucks so he could offer rides when he became ill.
Through numerous connections and the Internet, he found out that Stewart’s No. 20 Pontiac Grand Prix was being used at The Racing School in North Kingstown, R.I.
It already had a second seat.
He explained his intentions to folks at the school.
“I had some parts that they needed and I needed a Tony Stewart ride-along car,” said Veinote.
They made a swap.
“They helped me out a lot,” said Veinote, who is a Tony Stewart fan.
Eight days ago, Veinote’s close friend Tim Reynolds of Bradley gave a physically handicapped youngster a ride around New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon during Oval Days, a two-day celebration of vintage oval racing.
Kris Watson and Mike Millett helped Reynolds and Veinote prepare the car.
“To see the smile on the kid’s face after turning at least 10 laps at Loudon makes it all worthwhile,” said Veinote. “He may never get another chance to ride around in a race car. He had an opportunity to feel what it’s like inside a 500-horsepower race car. We can still make someone’s dreams come true.”
Veinote will continue to offer rides to those who are less fortunate as well as to people who win raffles held to raise money for the Make-A-Wish Foundation and the Pine Tree Camp for Mainers with disabilities.
The Stewart car will be on hand for rides during two race nights at Oxford Plains Speedway and one apiece at Hermon’s Speedway 95 and Unity Raceway.
“And there may be more added,” said Veinote.
He said track administrators at those three facilities as well as the ones at New Hampshire Motor Speedway have welcomed him and his charitable rides with open arms.
“It has been remarkable,” said the 47-year-old Veinote, a 1982 graduate of Hampden Academy.
He said the charity work has been therapeutic for him.
“It makes me try to get up every morning,” he said.